August 6, 2012
New York Times writer, Anemona Horticollis has written yet another telling story. The Short Life and Lonely Death of Sabrina Seelig describes why entering a hospital could be hazardous to your health.
Sabrina Seelig was a writer, a student and came from a family of artists. Both of her parents previously taught at the University of Art in Philadelphia and then moved to an artists’ colony in Maine. Sabrina eventually moved to my hometown of Brooklyn, New York in a neighborhood that was changing. Like many New York neighborhoods, Bushwick has experienced significant transformation and revitalization, thus attracting young professionals, students and artists. Unfortunately, the neighboring hospital remained unchanged and had been cited for mismanagement, was under investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney and didn’t carry medical malpractice insurance. Had Sabrina had known those facts; they might have saved her life.
According to The New York Times, Sabrina took Ephedra (a stimulant) to stay awake all night so that she could write her Latin paper for school. She also took an herb called Valerian. Feeling sick, she contacted the public health Poison Control Center after calling an ambulance that never came. The Poison Control Center wasn’t that helpful and basically told her to wait for the ambulance. It’s not clear how Sabrina arrived at Wyckoff Hospital but a cascade of unfortunate events sent her to the grave:
- She was given a sedative that made her sleepy although she had taken Valerian
- Her wrists were bound in restraints
- She was never given oxygen
- She lie on a small hospital cot unresponsive for over 12 hours
- She never received a breathing mask or tube
- She was never transferred to the ICU
- There were few notes written in her medical chart
- She did not have vital signs recorded for over 3 hours despite the fact that she was unconscious
- Her parents had her transferred to another hospital but by that time she was brain dead
- The nurse involved stated “writing vital signs were unnecessary because she was watching the cardiac monitor. “
- Her family had a challenging time finding an attorney who would take the case
- A jury found the hospital not guilty and made snide comments about Sabrina’s alleged drug use
As a physician and parent, I am outraged about the death of Sabrina. Wyckoff Hospital should be shut down immediately.
There are two lessons to be learned from this case. (1) Know your hospital. There is a chapter in The Smart Mother’s Guide that addresses this issue. If a hospital does not carry medical malpractice insurance, RUN in the opposite direction; and (2) to quote Sabrina’s dad, “Never enter a hospital alone.”
December 28, 2011
It’s an obstetrician’s worst nightmare and it continues to happen on a daily basis. The story of Michal Lura Friedman brings tears to my eyes. After 7 years of trying, the 44 year old songwriter finally became pregnant –with twins. Her husband, Jay Snyder, a free-lance voice-over artist, describes the 9 months of Friedman’s pregnancy as pure bliss. However towards the end, her blood pressure became elevated so she was scheduled to have a C. Section the day after Thanksgiving.
Snyder accompanied his wife to the hospital and witnessed the birth of his babies. Then Friedman began to bleed. And bleed. And bleed. At 9:30 p.m., she became yet another U.S. maternal mortality statistic.
At least 2 women die from complications of childbirth in the US daily. Some celebrities such as Christy Turlington Burns have become a Maternal Health Advocate as a result of first-hand experience. She had a near-miss childbirth experience but lived to tell the story. Many women, including Friedman, don’t. The American Congress and College of Obstetrician-Gynecologists (ACOG), will have both Burns and Tonya Lewis Lee, the wife of renowned director, Spike Lee as spokeswomen on the topic of maternal mortality at the 2012 Annual Conference in San Diego. However, we need much more. There are obstetricians who have worked on the front-lines managing high-risk patients for years who can’t get a seat on ACOG’s policy committees and it is frustrating. Here are a few questions that should be asked at the hospital where Friedman expired:
- She had a short stature with a uterus stretched to the max with two babies. Was the possibility of hemorrhage considered?
- When her blood pressure became elevated, was it controlled prior to doing the C. Section knowing the risk of possible HELPP Syndrome that is associated with pre-eclampsia?
- Was there an OB Rapid Response Team?
- Was a Bakri balloon used once the bleeding couldn’t be controlled with uterine massage or meds?
- Was the prospect of a problem anticipated BEFORE it occurred or was there chaos trying to find appropriate meds and equipment as the tragedy unfolded?
Pregnancy is not a benign act contrary to what most people believe. Things can and do happen, most often when the hospital staff is unprepared and ill-equipped to handle an emergency. My heart bleeds for Jay Snyder. He is 41 years old, a new father and now a widow who must take care of two beautiful children, who will never know their mother. With all due respect ACOG, talk is cheap. More action must be taken to stop this.
Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do…
September 21, 2009
I’m not a great fan of Hip Hop, but I do appreciate the enchantment of the spoken word. Of late, there’s been a lot of discussion regarding Hip Hop artist, Jay-Z’s latest CD and his interview in Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine. My interest in Jay-Z does not lie in his musical talents, but rather his humble beginnings.
What Jay-Z and I share in common is our former domicile in the Marcy Housing Projects in Brooklyn (although my family relocated the year he was born). Living in a housing project is a transformative experience. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Although my early childhood was spent in a small Long Island town called Amityville, I always acknowledge Brooklyn first. Perhaps because of its sense of community and my surrogate mothers who made me tow the line. Heroin addiction was rampant during my tenure in the Marcy. For Jay-Z’s generation, it was probably crack-cocaine. Yet, through the grace of God and the watchful eyes of my surrogate family, I was not directly affected. Jay-Z was one of the lucky ones. Most men that I grew up with in the Marcy were dead before the age of thirty.
Brooklyn is unique because of its creativity. I can’t offer an explanation. It simply is. Mary Tyler Moore. Barbara Streisand. Judge Judy. Rosie Perez. Spike Lee. Larry King. Chris Rock. Lauren Bacall. I think you get my point. Each one of these celebrities possessed a gift that I’m sure their pregnant moms never dreamed they would have.
I’ve been an obstetrician for almost twenty-two years yet I’m still in awe at the miracle of pregnancy. We never know who is coming but are ecstatic when they finally arrive. Within humble wombs lies the promise of infinite possibilities. Jay-Z was just one of them and they’ll be many more to come.